The Sky is Choking Us (AKA: Never Take Blue Skies for Granted)

Here’s a photo of our street at the moment.

2015-10-04 17.18.39

Notice those beautifully green hills in the background? Of course not, they are completely covered by a thick layer of smog courtesy of Indonesia.

We’ve had occasional bad visibility in the past from time to time, but I’ve seen nothing like this in my ten years in Malaysia. Today is the worst air quality I’ve ever seen – currently reading 172 on the air pollution index.

Hundreds of fires in Indonesia are currently sending a thick plume of polluted air throughout Southeast Asia. Penang, being quite a bit north, usually escapes most of it, but not this time. The fires are a result of clear-cutting, making way for new farm land. I have great sympathy for the peasants who toil on the land with a meager existence. I understand how the thought of a new field with increased returns could entice them, but when practices threaten the health of an entire region, more must be done. The Indonesian government is working now to put the fires out, but that does little to stop the long-term issues.

I grew up in the Pittsburgh area, which of course used to have the blackest sky in the world back in the roaring steel mill days of Carnegie and Frick. I’m sure the area was still quite polluted in the sixties when I was born, but it always looked clean to me.

I lived in Vietnam for ten years and never saw a more polluted sky than what I’m seeing today. I lived along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for a couple years and enjoyed the clean, brisk air. But seeing this thick smog encapsulate the nation, I don’t envy people who have to deal with these issues on a regular basis. (Beijing, Mexico City, …)

Here’s the current air quality map of the region:

Capture air quality

 

You might notice that horrendous reading Kalimantan (southern part of Borneo, Indonesia) – 852! The label for that reading is hazardous. No one should have to live surrounded by oppression like that.

I hope the government of Indonesia will take some serious steps to address these issues through education and alternatives for people living in poverty.

For the time being, I’m staying inside, enjoying my air conditioning, and wondering if we will have school tomorrow. I know there are many who simply don’t have the small luxuries that I have.

Never take blue skies for granted.

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